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Best Books for Kindergarten through High School Review by Kate Kessler

Bob Jones University Press Publishers

Best Books is, in my opinion, one of the best little resource books I have come across yet for finding good reading material for my children. This is a fabulous book that gives a brief synopsis of the, well, best books out there for a growing Christian child's mind! The preface of the book states the philosophy and inner-workings of and behind the book:
"Live always in the best company when you read," said Sydney Smith, a nineteenth century clergyman. But how does one determine what is "best" when choosing books for young people? Good books, like good companions, should broaden a student's world, encourage him to appreciate what is lovely, and help him discern between truth and falsehood. These three concepts under gird the choices we have made for Best Books. The works listed in the general bibliographies are intended for recreational reading and focus on the first two ideas. The two sections titled "Books for Analysis and Discussion," one for grades 6-8 and another for grades 8-12, focus on the third concept and are included for the distinct purpose of helping students develop discernment. The annotated bibliographies as well as the final section, "Guidelines for Choosing Books," will provide valuableinsight and help clarify how the works in these two sections might be used.

The book is broken down into four grade sections: Kindergarten through Grade 3, Grade 3-6, Grade 6-8 and finally Grade 8-12. Each section is filled with book titles that range from history or science titles like "Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears" to well-known and loved selections like Beatrix Potter's, "The Tale of Peter Rabbit." Here are a few samples from the book:

K-Grade 3:

The Mitten, Illus. Yaroslava. 1964.
This is an old Ukrainian folktale about a little boy who lost his mitten in the forest while gathering firewood for his grandmother on the coldest day of winter. In this fanciful tale, the mitten becomes a shelter for an amazing number of forest animals.

A Question of Yams, Gloria Repp, Bob Jones University Press, 1992. Kuri's father dares to serve God, defying the traditions of the Head Men, and Kuri watches to see what will happen.

Grade 3-6:

The Door in the Wall, Marguerite DeAngeli, 1949.
In this medieval story, Robin's plans to become a knight are foiled when he is permanently crippled. Robin is taken by a friar to a hospice where he is well cared for and regains his strength. He seeks new ways of service to his lord. His chance comes when the enemy thinks he is a harmless handicapped boy. He delivers a message that saves his lord from destruction.

Her Majesty Grace Jones, Jane Langton, 1974.
This story is set in the Great Depression years. Pop is without a job, and the car must be turned in for cash. Grace escapes to her world of fantasy where she is the heir to the British throne. She writes to King George for help but finally realizes that she is being foolish and selfish.

Grade 6-8:

My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George, 1988.
This is an exciting survival story about a young boy named Sam Gribley who decides to go out on his own. Having learned from his father about his great-grandfather Gribley's land in the Catskill Mountains, Sam sets out. After a fairly uneventful journey, he finds himself deep in the forest - lost, hungry, and exhausted. As time passes however, Sam succeeds in creating a life for himself. The only problem he cannot solve is loneliness. But the coming of spring brings a surprise that solves this problem as well.

Cathedral, David McCauley, 1973.
This is a highly-detailed, interesting picture book that not only tells, but also shows, how a cathedral was constructed.

Grade 8-12:

Emma, Jane Austen, 1816.
This is the story of a girl whose matchmaking attempts meet with little success and yet who becomes endeared to the reader.

A Lantern in Her Hand, Bess Streeter Aldrich, 1928.
The American prairie settler's life is seen in the life of Abbie Deal, a devoted wife and mother, who helps to bring a large family through hardships.

Under the Books for Analysis and Discussion are synopses like:

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, 1847.
This compelling classic well illustrates the essential selfishness of unbridled human passions and the ultimate destructiveness of such passions. The two central characters, Catherine and Heathcliff, are fatally flawed characters without moral compunction, characters whose self-absorption and cynicism dominate the story's action and move it toward its inevitable, tragic resolution.

Les Miserable, Victor Hugo, 1831.
This intriguing story, set in early nineteenth-century France, contrasts the effects of repentance and restoration with the consequences of bitterness and revenge. Although the overall moral tone of the book is positive, there are a few objectionable elements in the story that should be addressed.

Not only does Best Books have pages and pages of brief reviews such as what is above, it also includes chapters with listings of good biographies and autobiographies, guidelines for choosing books, and a large author and title index in the back. I cannot recommend this book enough for help when library browsing, book shopping or when just searching for information on a title you have heard about but don't know the context. For the small price the book sells for, it is a great treasure. For ordering information you can see the Bob Jones University Press website at

-- Product Review by: Kate Kessler, Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine